Make the silent heard and the invisible seen.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Smoking Oda stinks

The Bev Oda affair is odious. Whether or not the embattled Conservative cabinet minister is oda-here will be decided in the next two days before Canada's MPS take the mid-winter break from the current session.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has stood firm in the House of Commons in supporting his International Cooperation Minister. The opposition parties have been unrelenting in demanding her resignation or firing, neither of which is likely. And the whole brouhaha will, in all likelihood, be forgotten by the public by the time MPs return to Ottawa. Not surprising, when a recent poll suggests only 15% of Canadians follow federal politics.

However, as Andrew Coyne writes in a must-read column on MacLean', "This is about whether this government can be held to basic norms of civilized democratic behaviour." Why should it start? The conservative base in this country - the only Canadians that Prime Minister Stephen Harper cares about - sees nothing morally wrong with a government that lies. As long as it's a Conservative government. It stinks.

In just a few days, this story has gone beyond Bev Oda to being a question of Stephen Harper's ethics - his sense of right and wrong. To have a photograph of Oda smoking a cigarette on the home page of is, quite simply, poor form for The Globe and Mail to display in its home page. Any for the media to mock her wearing sunglasses is childish. It detracts from the crisis that the nation faces. Do Canadians want Stephen Harper single-handedly running this country or a civilized parliament democracy?

Oda's actions in the "not" affair that has played out this week are highly questionable, but to allude to her overall character as being questionable by showing her as a smoker implies that she is a bad person.
As the critical thinking about smoking has formed:
Smoking cigarettes is bad;
Smokers smoke cigarettes;
Therefore, smokers are bad.
That's unsound and completely invalid because not all smokers are bad people. (Harper doesn't smoke.) And to draw Oda's addiction to cigarettes, while she is undergoing tremendous professional and personal stress, is irrelevant to the political debate.

As U.S. House Speaker John Boehner said in a recent Fox News Sunday interview with Chris Wallace, "It's a bad habit, but I have it. It's a legal product. I choose to smoke. Leave me alone."

Bev Oda and the Prime Minister should not be left alone about what actually transpired, but Oda should be left alone to smoke privately.

We have joined your revolution; except Canada

UPDATE: An unprecedented cyberattack on the Canadian government from China has given foreign hackers access to highly classified federal information, and forced at least two key departments off the internet, the CBC has learned.

The information war has begun.

Note to The New Yorker's Malcolm Gladwell, academics and professors of journalism who continue to hold to Gladwell's assertion that "the revolution will not be tweeted. The revolution is being tweeted. Why else would the United States so strongly come to the aid of pro-democracy reforms sweeping across the sands of the Middle East by launching an insurgent Twitter attack.

Under-reported in the world's exhilaration over the fall of Egypt's dictator Hosi Mubarak  - and subsequent movements for reform in Bahrain, Yemen, Iran and Libya - was that the U.S. State Department began sending Twitter messages in Farsi on Sunday (Feb. 13) "in the hopes of reaching social media users in Iran."

In this McLuhan age that we are joined in, the U.S. tactic is a strategic first-strike. A smart-bomb, if you will.
  1. پرزیدنت اوباما: ما پیام قوی به متحدانمان فرستاده ایم. به الگوی مصر نگاه کنید، نه ایران #Iran#25Jan #25Bahman #Egypt
The translation of the preceding tweet is:

President Obama: We have sent strong message to our allies. Look at the pattern of Egypt, not Iran.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

We are all Egyptians

"Just back from celeberations in the street. My voice is completely gone from shouting & chanting. It's an incredible day in Egyptians life. Incredible day in Egypt's history. We will build a new Egypt. A new fair, free just Egypt for all. I can feel bit change in how Egyptians are dealing with each other with care love." - Wael Ghonim, "We are all Khaled Said", Facebook, February 12, 2011
The Vancouver Canucks of the NHL uses an identical tagline for its brand promotion - "We are all Canucks." Since the team first started using it a few years ago, I would, whenever hearing it, say, "No. We're not."

Having been riveted to the events that unfolded in Egypt and the world, the Canucks sell hangs rather dross and limp in the fire and sweat of the people who overthrew a dictator; and the torture murder of a young man that gave rise to it. For 24 hours last week, we were all Egyptians. And the network made it so.

Mathew Ingram, in a blog on, made the argument at the beginning of, what was then, a pro-democracy movement in Egypt:
"The argument I have tried to make is simply that... social media tools can be incredibly powerful, both for spreading the word — which can give moral or emotional support to others in a country, as well as generating external support — as well as for organizational purposes, thanks to the power of the network. As Jared Cohen of Google Ideas put it, social media may not be a cause, but it can be a powerful “accelerant.”"
What transpired in Egypt over 18 shorts days proved otherwise. The network was more than fuel, it was the cause and effect of revolution.

When the internet began to make us collectively conscious of the pro-democracy protests in Egypt, Tim Wood, a friend from university, and I had this brief exchange:

Dave Brindle commented on Tim Wood's status.

Tim Wood 
Exhilirating live footage from Cairo. For those of us who regret not having been news-conscious in 1989, current events in the Maghreb almost make up for it:

28 January at 09:58 ·  · 

    • Dave Brindle Tim - Exhilirating? Or alarming?
      28 January at 09:58 · 

    • Tim Wood Based on my experience in autocracies and oligarchies, at a human level, these developments are not just exhilirating but inspiring. On a geopolitical level, the outcome could certainly be alarming. Or it could be positive. But it is wrong to assume, as many people seem to be, an up and down choice between totalitarianism and Islamism.

Tim is a young, intelligent attorney in New York, who had interned for the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and served as a Legislative Assistant for the Parliament of Canada. He had smartly summarized the history we would be witness to in Egypt. He's young, healthy, strong and on the net; like the self-sacrificing youth that took over Cairo's Tahrir Square, inspiring thousands of Algerians and Yemenis to take to the streets of their capital cities, and put the wheels in motion for a resurgence of the "green movement" in Iran.

A few days after that exchange with Tim, and after I'd begun to post on the events in Egypt, I got this message on Facebook:

    • Hala Romana Thanks Dave for covering the events going on in Egypt. I'm Egyptian and have family in Egypt and it is so amazing to see all the care and support coming from Canada. This is another reason why l'm proud to be Canadian!!
      30 January at 11:37 · 

    • Dave Brindle You're welcome, Hala. Are you able to reach your family and are they safe?
      30 January at 11:49 · 

    • Hala Romana Thanks Dave. I was able to make connect with my family today. Thankfully they are are safe. My cousin and his neighbors stayed up last night protecting their apartment complex from thieves. Today, there is a army tanker down the road from them so they feel abit safer.

Tim and Hala taught me an important lesson that would serve me well over the following days. My laptop was where the story would come together. The world was streaming, scanning, reading, and posting. It was the crucible for the critical mass that brought down two regimes - Mubarak's and geezer media. 

The In 1989, networking was exchanging as many business cards as you could. In 1969, networking took weeks and months to bring together a social force that could cause unpredictable, unprecedented and profound change such as what shook the world in just three weeks. That's light-speed in geopolitics. For anyone to think that the network, not the brands - Facebook and Twitter being to the network what Kleenex is to tissue paper; but that the network wasn't responsible for initiating and sustaining Egypt's revolution is living in the time of the pharaohs and holds to the belief that a bad winter unequivocally refutes climate change.

For the final two days of Hosni Mubarak's solipsistic stubbornness before acceding to the people's - and Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces - will, the network hummed. It grew to critical mass and tipped the balance in favour of the people. Bits and pieces came together, like a big picture puzzle, from everywhere on the table. The force of the democracy Egypt grew into a young, healthy, strong, always in motion yet ultimately immovable force of will because of communication made possible through the network. 

The network is global democracy that is creating a domino effect. So important is content from the web that the venerable Guardian has now created an interactive page on it's web site: "Twitter network of Arab protests - interactive map" where users can follow the latest tweets on protests around the Arab world. 

"We are all Khaled Said"

Khaled Said poster
Khaled Said was a young, healthy, strong Alexandria businessman whose beating death at the hands of police triggered the explosive fury that a generation had stockpiled under a lifetime of repression. Facebook was the gun barrel. As The Globe and Mail explained just one day after the first protest on #jan25 (a Twitter hashmark for the revolution),

"There is no one reason to explain why tens of thousands of Egyptians are taking part in the largest protests in a generation, calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. It is, rather, a combustible combination of factors ranging from the torture killing of a twenty-something businessman to the emerging political force of Facebook in the Arab world."
Said's unrecognizable face -
beaten by police to a bloody pulp
The graphic picture at right is of Khaled Said after corrupt Egyptian police beat him on the street and then dragged him inside a nearby building, smashing his head against a marble staircase and left to die. Why? He had discovered a video of corrupt local police and posted it on his blog.

Is Wael Ghonim new face of revolution 2.0?

Khaled Said is the first young face of the Egyptian revolution that we became aware of - a face beaten and bashed beyond recognition. Then we began to see young Egyptian faces by the thousands converge because of the efforts of Wael Ghonim, arguably  the second most important face of the revolution. In the parlance of journalism, Ghonim and his online friends took Khaled Said's tragic story and ran with it. Ran all the way to Tahrir Square, and stayed and communicated to the world. Connected. As the CBC reported,
Profile pic for Facebook page 
"The 30-year-old Google manager created the Facebook page "We Are All Khaled Said." It became a rallying point for the anti-government protests that began on Jan. 25. 
On Jan. 27, Ghonim went missing. It was discovered that he was being held by Egyptian authorities. 
After 12 days in detention, Ghonim was released on Feb. 7, and said that he had not been tortured while in detention, but Egyptian officers did interrogate him relentlessly about how the anti-government protests were organized."

It was organized. It was planned. You say you want a revolution? Give people the internet. Egypt's revolution is the faces of youth, a new media literate generation that continues to evolve and expand on the net. With every shift in the geopolitical landscape - Iran, Egypt, Algeria, Yemen - it gets more savvy in its choice of reliable sources.

Anderson Cooper, meet Ayman Mohyeldin

The "green movement" in Iran had opened the portal to Al Jazeera English, an exemplary news organization that eschews the sensational hyperbole and jingoism of US media. (Let's not even deign to discuss how Fox News extrapolated their agenda out of Egypt, other than to say it was blatant fear-mongering, the like of which would make Dick Cheney proud.) Let's, instead, use the Milquetoast of US cable news, CNN.

CNN's Anderson Cooper got a punch in the head. Ayman Mohyeldin, the break-out star of Al Jazeera's coverage, was blind-folded and detained by Egyptian secret police. Mohyeldin KO'd Cooper in the first round.

In the New York Times TV Watch, Alessandra Stanley wrote,
It was Al Jazeera’s victory as well, of course, and that struggle was also fought live on television over the last 18 days, though more subliminally. The Mubarak government, which repeatedly tried to block the Arabic-language channel, treated Al Jazeera as an enemy that incited the protesters.
Al Jazeera English seemed intent on using the upheaval in Egypt to assume the kind of authoritative role that CNN had during the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The network fought back — with impassive resistance. Throughout the crisis, its correspondents covering the protests tried to hold themselves to a strict neutrality that even CNN reporters didn’t feign.
As they did at the height of the Iraq war, many Americans chose to watch foreign newscasts, in particular streams of BBC World News and Al Jazeera English.
It's important to understand how much the network - particularly the brands Facebook and Twitter - is to the content of ink-on-dead trees newspapers and their online divisions, and traditional newscasts, be they CNN, Al Jazeera or even state-controlled Egyptian TV.

The day prior to Mubarak's fall, Al Jazeera noted that Egyptian TV had begun to take a much more aggressive approach and tone to its coverage of state corruption, injustice and social reform. Geezer media might bellyache about net content not being vetted and it replacing their role as content aggregator, but where would Wolf Blizter's Situation Room be without interface gadgets?

A different kind of guerrilla freedom fighter

The throngs that gathered at Tahrir Square were not freedom fighters carrying Kalashnikovs and streaming from the mountains or jungles to mount clandestine, violent attacks. The "Tienanmen Option", the infamous massacre that crushed the pro-democracy student uprising in China that Tim Wood alluded to in his reference to 1989, was never in play. This was an insurgency, in that it had cell-network interface, fostered a security of solidarity in the population, continually and instantly undermined the regime, and attacked Mubarak live on TV. Yet this was, with the exception of tragic and criminal loss of life when pro-Mubarak thugs clashed with pro-democracy protesters, a passive revolution. The activity was on the net.

In the 24 hours of the revolution that toppled Mubarak, I was working the Al Jazeera English and BBC live streams, toggling between, The Globe and Mail, and Tweetdeck, posting, and retweeting. In all, I sent about 100 items to the net in 24 hours, most summarized here on my blog. Multiply that by the network, and nobody really can. The net has gone beyond rating.

I had raised the question of alarm to Tim because, as a journalist, I have witnessed  revolutions in newsrooms where you wait for something to blow up. But Egypt is different. It was, as was repeated over and over on Friday, February 11th, exhilarating. The undercurrents of alarm, later expressed in the analysis of the revolutionary hangover, however, were ever present and more so now. Things will become less friendly. Facebook friends will become adversaries.

2011: Celebrating 100 years of McLuhan

Lost in all of the hum online - , - was 2011 is 100th anniversary of birth of Marshall McLuhan. He was right.
When I posted that, my friend, Rod Mickleburgh at The Globe and Mail, shot back;
@davebrindleshow mcluahan was certainly right when he gave my mother an A on her eng lit masters essay for him, on ulysses...
@ she also had northrop frye as a prof that mom was amazing....she went back for her MA at 46....
See that? Storytelling. That's what participatory journalism - or citizen or open journalism - works online. There's a great story in 6 lines and a click.

It's ironic that we're celebrating 100 years of McLuhan. Because he was Canadian and we are engaged in an electronic revolt. In this instance, a net revolution was actually taking place in Canada over two causes at the same time as Egypt. One stirred up the net - on Facebook and Twitter - so much that Prime Minister Stephen Harper, sensing the will of the young demographic might rally against him in an imminent election, stepped in and acquiesced to opposition over the CRTC's decision on user-based-billing. What's happening now in that debate has become too complicated and fractured for the interests of the network beyond special interest groups and telecorps.

The second cause relates directly to the reliability of news and information - manufactured news. Is there, as The Globe and Mail's TV critic John Doyle said,
an argument to be made that language of CRTC regulations on “news” and “truth” must conform to the law of the land, there is no authentic need to open up this can of worms.
The worms are out of the can. If the government, through the CRTC can legislate truth and news on TV, the precedent exists to impose the same on the internet.

Ross Howard, faculty member for Langara College’s Department of Journalism said in an excellent, but flawed opinion piece by Walker Morrow in the brand, spanking-new,
... online is just another form of presenting the same info quicker, more accessibly and with greater feedback and diversity of sources.” He continues, “Unfortunately, the Web by itself provides no answer or relief from this ignorance driven by corporate imperatives and near-drowning in the info-tsunami we’re facing, because blogs and Facebook and Twitter etc. provide extraordinary diversity and interactivity but absolutely no reliability.
I would challenge Mr. Howard's assertion of the network's unreliability. My friend,Tim Wood, had made and educated and valid argument that would prove correct. Look at his C.V. He wasn't guessing. He didn't make it up. Look at the summary of my posts and point out one that was not reliable. Ask the people of Egypt which was more reliable, the regime or the network. The network is reliable in that it never loses its voice, fluidity, fairness, free expression of ideas and opinions, and sense of justice - the very essence of democracy. And if an open democracy isn't reliable, what on earth is?

Caution, the spin starts here. The same engine that can organize through disorganization can also be retooled and used to quickly reorganize into factions and agendas. The inherent strength of the internet's global democracy is also it's weakness. The network doesn't have leadership nor does it follow a plan, and it is wrong to assume an up and down choice anymore between geezer media and open media. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Egypt: lines drawn in shifting sands

Angry Egyptians in Tahrir Square, Cairo raise shoes in the air after President Hosni Mubarak's insulting speech (CBC)
February 10, 2011
8-9 a.m. (PT) 
Retired general tells AJE Mubarak's absence from meeting of military council a clear indication that "is no longer president." - Stephen Maher, Ottawa Bureau Chief for the Chronicle Herald

Mass celebrations Tahrir Square. - David Common, CBC

Egyptian state TV says Mubarak will address nation tonight . Reports say Mubarak may step down. - CBC New Alerts

9-10 a.m. (PT)
It does throw a guy off when news breaks before morning tea and he's got one cigarette left. - db

Mubarak announcement will apparently come at 10:30 a.m. (PT). - db

BreakingNews: President Mubarak is currently meeting with vice president at his palace - AP via Egyptian state TV

Watch Al Jazeera live - db

"... people in Tahrir Square have a strong sense of anticipation - people believe their moment has come." - Al Jazeera.

Big question - Will military step-in to govern until elections can be held? - db

Mubarak live TV now at 10pm local. 3pm eastern. Noon (PT). All in flux. - David Common, CBC

10-11 a.m. (PT)

Military announced that is has stepped in to "safeguard the country." Reports say ranks of military split with balance tipping to people. - Al Jazeera

People demand break from past w/ govt controlling the people. Want civilian rule and a constitution that builds country not individuals. - Al Jazeera

Cacophony from Tahrir Square exhilarating. Imagine the roar if Mubarak steps down today. - db

White House says there is a "fluid" situation going on, whatever that means. - db

From FB friend: "In Egypt I keep hearing about "they". "They" want change. "They are making new demands." "They are demanding a new form of government." "Their voice is being heard." I have a question: Who are "they" exactly? In the political "imagined community" sense this is a vital question, as "they" means a division between "we" and "other", which can lead to bad bad stuff.

Criminal court decision upholds ruling to ban 3 ministers from leaving country. - Al Jazeera

Protest has not relinquished, has not lost momentum in 17 days since it began. - db

11 a.m. - 12noon (PT): 30min past expected time of Mubarak speech

"We are witnessing history unfold." - Obama

Mubarak to address nation at 2000GMT, approx 45mins (12PT). - db

Al Jazeera reports military earlier prevented Mubarak from handing power to VP Sulieman. (First indication that the script will not go over well with the ever growing crowd in Tahrir Square.) - db

To the people - Be brave. Clenched fists. - db

Communique #1 from Supreme Council of Armed Forces - "Supreme Council of Armed Forces committed to uphold people's rights." - Al Jazeera

Muslim Brotherhood expresses fears of military coup. - Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera notes aggressive tone from state-controlled media toward corruption, injustice and social reform. - db

Still waiting. This crowd only gets bigger. So many children. - Nalhah Ayed, CBC. (Line sticks with me - So many children.)

Supreme Council of Armed Forces has only met 3 times in times of crisis since 1957. Will now meet "more regularly." - Al Jazeera (Suggests military will take much more active role in government.)

Since 1952 all of Egypt's leaders have come from military. Has been historically difficult for Egypt to have civilian rule. - Al Jazeera

12noon - 1 p.m. (PT)

Laudable reporting by Al Jazeera, particularly Ayman Mohyeldin who, at one point, detained by military for 7 hours. - db

Everything premature right now - expressions, speculation, anticipation, apprehension, exhilaration. Waiting. - db

Breaking News: Reuters reporting reliable sources say Mubarak will only announce lifting of emergency laws, hand power to VP and remain as president. - Al Jazeera

2 - 3 p.m. (PT)

Mubarak has begun his final speech? - db

Immediately apparent Mubarak's tone and words suggest he is not going. - db

"In my capacity as President of the state..." He's not stepping down. Points finger at external sources for troubles. - db

Mubarak says he has laid down a clear vision how to address the crisis. Proposes 6 constitutional amendments. - db

Mubarak will not lift emergency laws until situation calms. - db

Mid-speech, huge chant erupts in Tahrir Square. Deafening. Hundreds of thousands angry with Mubarak's insistence and reasons to remain. - db

Mubarak to stay on as president with some executive powers shifting to VP Sulieman. - db

Mood in Tahrir Square is anger. "He shall leave!" "He shall leave." People lifting shoes into air. Tense. Celebration turns to defiant.- db

Has Mubarak added more momentum to mobilization of tomorrow's million man march? - db

VP Sulieman's remarks insulting, ominous, foreboding. Tells young: go home. Accuses satellite TV (i.e. Al Jazeera) of inflaming anti-gov. Revolution begins tomorrow. - db

3 p.m. - 4 p.m. (PT)

Situation as clear as Nile silt. Mubarak in denial. Sulieman appears as strongman. Military split. Only clarity is palpable anger. - db

Lines between Mubarak and Sulieman have been drawn in sifting sands. - db

Dumped wheelbarrow of manure on my gardens today and thought this was what Mubarak and Sulieman did to Egyptians - dumped a load of shit. - db

February 11, 2011
1 a.m. - 2 a.m. (PT)

Daylight & crowds already gathering in large nos. in Tahrir Square on this day million man march. 2 hours 2 Friday prayers. And then? - db

Mood in DC; Obama impatient with Mubarak. Mood in Cairo; protesters defiant with Mubarak ahead of day of mass action. - db

Supreme Council of Armed Forces meeting again today. Mubarak not in attendance. Whose side will military side with? - db

Waiting for communique from Supreme Council of Armed Forces. There is thirst by many protesters for military to step in. Coup? - db

Mosa'ab Elshamy tweets: Today is 3rd Friday of our revolution. The 1st was bloody, 2nd was festive and 3rd should be decisive. #Jan25 - Twitter

"I am right by presidential palace now. Hearing that soldiers warned protesters they were from presidential guard &; had orders to shoot." #jan25 - BBC

Protesters surround state TV bldg, Cairo. Reports that bldg in lockdown. Protesters call 20 million to "Farewell Friday." #jan25 - BBC

Throngs by the thousands gathering in Tahrir Sq. prior to Friday prayers. - db

Mood in Israel, relief Mubarak staying. Mood in Iran, Ahmadinejad's take is that Mid East will soon be free of U.S. and Israel. - db

Mounting expectations of a military coup. Reports that mid-ranking officers joining pro-dem protests. #jan25 - Twitter

9 - 10 a.m.

Egyptian president stands down and hands over power to the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces. - db

What emotional rollercoaster. Tahrir -- excitement, anger, confusion, now jubilation. Egypt in 20 hours. - David Common, CBC

"Free democratic community" Text of Egyptian Army's statement. Looks good, but questions remain. - Stephen Maher, Ottawa Bureau Chief, Chronicle Herald

Mubarak has stepped down! Update from the CBC Current's team to be heard in the Pacific time zone OR stream live: - db

10 - 11 a.m.

Egypt: You won a revolution! - db

Al Jazeera live feed - db

Supreme Council of Armed Forces now in charge after Mubarak steps down. - db

Late last night, WH was growing increasingly impatient with regime. What role did Obama admin. play behind scenes? - db

Mubarak-lite, VP Sulieman has not resigned. - db

The domino-effect? Tunisia, Egypt... - db

Suleiman: CIA's man in Cairo - friend to the US & reported torturer, has long been touted a presidential successor. - db

Listen to the noise! A surging celebration of humanity in Tahrir Square.- db

Freedom is not free. This revolution is the sacrifice of so much over that last 3 weeks and the last 30 years of Egypt's young. - Al Jazeera

"The heart of Egypt is beating." - Aman Nour, El Ghad Party, Al Jazeera

Egypt's protests on Twitter. - Al Jazeera

Gold and oil decline as Mubarak resigns. NP

Tweet summary - Price of oil and gold drop; Mubarak's departure could create Pakistan-on-the-Nile. - db

11 a.m. - 12noon (PT)

Swiss freeze possible Mubarak assets.

if it really was the military that finally forced mubarak out, eery similarity to suharto' - Rod Mickleburgh, TGAM

Statement from army RT with communique on Al Jazeera live. - db

 Egyptian military: "there is no alternative but the legitimacy of what is acceptable to the people." Also, thank you, Hosni. - Andrew Coyne, MacLean's

CDN PM Stephen Harper comments. If you care... - db

1 - 2 p.m. (PT)

Oooooo... CDN PMs office preparing statement on Egypt. I'm aflutter with eager anticipation. - db

Okay... so who's going to volunteer for clean-up after this party? Anyone? Anyone? - db

Seriously?! Rumours they're talking to Mubarak about being one-dimensional villain in Arnie's next, untitled film. - db

3 - 4 p.m.

Guardian headline: "Obama says Egypt will never be the same." You don't say. - db

4 - 5 p.m.

Domino effect? Next up... "Iran 'scared of the will of it's people': US." Demos planned in Iran on Monday. - db

8 - 9 p.m.

Excellent observation from TGAM on what Obama admin has signaled about its foreign policy post-#Mubarak.